A Look at Montessori High School

Meet Lily, a 16-year-old sophomore at the Academy of Thought and Industry (ATI). ATI is Guidepost’s sister network for middle and high school, where students can continue to learn in a way that preserves agency and curiosity. She shares her own take on how Montessori schooling is shaping her future.

Alex Kinsella

Content Marketer and Writer

Talk of Montessori education often brings to mind thoughts of children following their passions and interests as they explore the world around them in a prepared environment. It’s a learning style where children can learn, make mistakes, and grow.

One misconception that we often hear is that Montessori is only for younger children. It’s quite the opposite. Montessori-style learning through schools like the Academy of Thought and Industry (ATI) benefits students through their middle and high school years and prepares them for life beyond school.

ATI student Lily Barbosa knows these benefits well. A sophomore at ATI in our Virtual School program, Lily said that Montessori education has been a core part of her life.

“My mom worked at a Montessori school, so you could say that I’ve been going to a Montessori school before I was even old enough to go,” Lily said.

She eventually tried traditional school, but returned to Montessori for the more collaborative group learning

Lily has learned in Montessori and traditional schools. She attended Montessori for her toddler and primary education and then switched to a private school. Lily returned to Montessori for her upper elementary years before moving to Texas and a traditional public school for one year. When the pandemic moved schools online, Lily switched to a private virtual school before she and her mother discovered ATI, which has both in-person and virtual. She chose the ATI Virtual School.

Having experienced Montessori school, public school, and private virtual school, Lily said she feels the Montessori experience has been most beneficial. She said one of the reasons is the focus on mixed-age, group learning in Montessori education.

“The other virtual learning that I did was a lot different because there was less interaction,” Lily said. “Whereas with ATI, I have interaction with my peers in class and in group work. In the private school virtual learning I was working completely on my own.”

With Virtual Montessori, learning is a part of daily living

ATI’s course and schedule structure is designed to prepare students for whatever they choose to do after graduating — from university to specialized schools in their field of choice. A day for Lily starts with a class check-in to say hello to classmates, guides, and teachers. From there, students break into work cycles where they can catch up on any school work and prepare for their first class of the day.

“My first class is at 10 a.m., which alternates between literature and history. After class, I take a lunch break and then there’s another work cycle to prepare for my second class of the day. We have time after the second class to finish our work before our last class of the day. I’m taking a Spanish and a drawing elective right now — so I’m usually finished for the day by 3:30,” Lily said.

High school years are more than a time spent studying and taking tests — it’s a time to explore interests outside of academics, make friends, and form bonds that can last a lifetime. Virtual schooling can often be isolating, but Lily said the ATI Virtual School experience has been anything but that.

“ATI gives us lots of time to socialize. They’re very good about giving us opportunities to work with our peers on assignments or projects,” Lily said. “In our work cycles, we can choose to work by ourselves or with other people.”

Montessori students gain 1:1 coaching and mentorship in the adolescent years

Coaching is another aspect of the ATI experience that Lily said benefits her studies now and plans for the future. Montessori education at ATI creates opportunities for students to focus on the subjects and interests that are important to them, but that exploration isn’t done in a vacuum. Each student has a coach to help guide their learning. Lily said that working with her own coach has helped to unlock her passions and goals. 

“I have that independence to really push forward,” Lily said. “If there’s a goal I want to achieve, I know that I have the means, resources, and will to do it. I’m on a good path to growth and I know that as I get older, I’m still going to be able to handle the responsibilities that are coming.”

Even though Lily is a sophomore, she is already putting her post-secondary plans into action. Next school year, Lily is participating in a dual enrollment program with a college in Virginia to earn her associate’s degree in psychology before graduating high school. After high school, she said she plans to complete her bachelor’s degree in business marketing as part of her dream to become a singer and songwriter.

“I want to get my associate’s in psychology because I love counseling. It’s something that’s been really important to me and it’s helped me throughout what’s been happening in the world over the last two years,” Lily added. “The business marketing degree is a way for me to learn how to create my own business —whether it’s through singing or counseling.”

More time to create, collaborate, and build your identity as a person

Lily’s time at ATI has helped open up doors for her singing and songwriting career. Beyond having more free time to write and practice, Lily connected with another ATI student from the Hollywood Beach ATI campus in Florida who is also a music producer.

“He’s helped me learn to use music production software and next quarter, I’m going to take his elective on music production,” Lily said. “I’m able to learn that new skill through ATI. Everybody at ATI — other students, my coach, across campuses — they’re all very helpful and supportive of everything that we want to do, even if it pertains to things outside of school.”

Lily said that parents and students deciding between ATI and traditional high schools should consider not only the environment and education but also the freedom to explore the potential careers they’re interested in. There are opportunities to meet people from different backgrounds and experiences that can help you grow to your full potential.

“In traditional public schools, they always say that they’re preparing you for college. But hearing those words from my teachers in traditional school and then seeing it in action at ATI are two different things,” Lily said. “I have felt so much growth at ATI compared with my time at traditional school.”

Meet the Author

Alex Kinsella

Alex Kinsella is a freelance content marketer and writer based in Waterloo, Ontario. Alex has contributed to publications including BetaKit, Grand Magazine and more.

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